Central to Ulmer's apparatus theory is a division of history into three epochs: Orality, Literacy, and Electracy.
A standard practice of his is to create analogies that connect the three epochs showing how we have developed with each epoch:
I love this form of understanding as it relates theoretical knowledge to our personal experience(John Dewey would be proud).
So, I figured if I really understood apparatus theory I should be able to make my own "Ulmer Analogy" and here it is:
Oral culture developed ideas or concepts.
Literary culture developed a way to store those ideas.
Electrate culture is developing relationships between those stored ideas.
All epochs had ideas, storage, and relationships. The change has to do with which aspects technology aids us in.
In orality the mind is responsible for creating the idea, storing the idea, and accessing the idea. Permanence of ideas is a function of social interaction, they must be passed on to someone. This highlights the importance of rhetoric. Knowledge, to be permanent must be stored in many minds. The relationships between ideas can only happen if a single person has the information to be connected. It is impossible to relate all knowledge because knowledge storage and relation happens solely in the mind. It is certain that many great ideas were lost, and those people that were considered the originators of specific ideas were probably not the first to come up with the idea. They were just the ones still remembered when the tools of literature formed.
In literary culture storage is moved from the mind to a page. Ideas become more complex and diverse. One could build on the knowledge of others and easily pick up where others left off. Relation must still be done in the mind though. All relations that could be made, were made through a human mind. And those things that were related must both reside within a single mind (for a time being at least, read from a page related then forgotten). Cross referencing, translating and map-making, these are tasks of the mind in the literary culture.
In the electrate culture relation is done by technology. Computers relate vast databases, translate statistically(google translate), and create maps automatically. Connections multiply exponentially increasing information density by orders of magnitude. This is "choraspace" the web of interrelated symbols. The extent of this is relating all knowledge with all other knowledge: the creation of a complete map of knowledge. What does that leave for the brain to do?
The mind can focus on what it has done from the beginning: creation, invention, heuristics and.. choice?
Throughout all the epochs the mind had to choose. In oral culture it had to choose what to relay, in literary culture it chose what to store, in electrate culture it chooses what to relate. I am looking for food: I relate my position to the database of restaurants. I am looking for a mate: I relate my desires with a database of others' desires.
Ulmer mentions the "symmetry of history" and the importance of looking back to look forward. We have seen three epochs, does this trend give us predictive powers, could we use "Ulmer Analogies" to predict the future?
With other analogies I didn't get the sense of a next-in-the-series, but with mine I do: Idea, Storage, Relation... Computation.
Technology has repeatedly been given the task of functioning as the mind, and it has taken on the easier tasks, in the next phase it will take on the harder task of computation. You may say, computers are great at computation, but no they really aren't. Computers are incredible at a the small subset of problems that are discrete: definable with ones and zeros. Where there is a clear binary representation, computers are great. But the vast majority of our computation is symbolic, and our symbols are complex and fuzzy. Language is a complex web of ideas and half meaningful relationships isomorphically related to reality and to other languages. Computers can't compute until humans reduce that complexity, till we discretize the concepts and choose the relations. If you study sampling(the science of discretizing) you will find that information is invariably lost in the process. So, if I were to use this analogy as a predictive tool, I would say symbolic computation would be the next technological phase that will change our concept of self and thus bring in a new "Ulmer Epoch".
OK, that was fun :) <--- smiley: an electrate artifact, signifying the importance of "body" and demonstrating the electrate person's unease with literary traditions.
Can you create your own "Ulmer Analogy?" I'd love to know what you come up with.